A morning sightseeing in Philadelphia
02.06.2013 31 °C
Before going to watch the Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Team play the Milwaukee Brewers in the afternoon there was just enough time to get a bit more sightseeing done in Philadelphia, I had to see where Rocky was filmed!
But first we did a bit more history by going to see Congress Hall, the only building around Independence Square I didn't manage to see on my previous visit. Philadelphia was the original capital of the USA when there were just 13 states with Congress Hall being used as the Capital Building from 1790 until US government moved to Washington DC in 1800. During this time 3 new states - Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee - were admitted.
The House Chamber has mahogany desks and eventually accommodated 106 representatives from the 16 states; the Senate Chamber is more ornate with red drapes and 32 secretary desks (28 of which are original) very similar to the desks that are still used in the current Senate chamber in Washington DC. There are portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, gifts from the French monarchy following the American Revolution, hanging in the adjoining committee rooms.
On the far side of Independence Square with their corners just touching is Washington Square, the south-east quadrant of the five original planned squares laid out on the city grid for William Penn, the founder of the city. Originally used as a burial ground for citizens and troops from the Colonial army and then as pasture, it is now the site of the tomb and eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.
The oldest residential street in the USA is believed to be the cobblestoned Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia. Its 33 brick houses were originally built circa 1702 and despite being registered as a historic landmark are still privately owned; a few of them had 'for sale' notices which did somewhat spoilt the historical effect!
A short distance away was the Betsy Ross House built about 1740. Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the original Stars and Stripes US Flag in her bedchamber while under risk of being arrested by the British for treason. The house is furnished to look like it would have done at the time of the American Revolution; complete with a very enthusiastic actor pretending to be Betsy Ross who was offering to take on new sewing commissions!
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the USA containing over 227,000 objects of which probably the most famous is Van Gogh's painting of a Vase with twelve Sunflowers. However what I really wanted to see were the iconic 72 stone steps out front that featured in the 1976 film Rocky and four of its sequels! A bronze statue of Rocky now stands near the bottom of the steps, both of which were popular locations for tourists such as myself to jump around with fists raised above their heads doing Rocky impressions!
The mile long Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the Rocky Steps back into the city centre is a very scenic boulevard lined with museums and bedecked with the flags of 109 countries modelled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. Amongst the museums is the Rodin Museum which contains the largest collection of Auguste Rodin's sculptures outside Paris. This includes one of the 28 original castings of his famous statue The Thinker which sits outside in the museum's entry courtyard.
Midway along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Swann Memorial Fountain in the Logan Circle with 3 sculptures of native American figures representing the local Wissahickon, Schaylkill and Delaware rivers spurting out water at its base. Even closer to the city centre is the John F Kennedy Plaza aka Love Square; so called because of the iconic fountain-side 'LOVE' sculpture by Robert Indiana placed there in 1976 which I somehow managed to totally miss despite being evidently having stood directly beneath it taking photographs!
At the city end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the middle of Penn Square is the majestic 548 feet (167 metre) tall City Hall completed in 1901. It's the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame and is topped by a 37 feet (11.2 metre) high bronze statue of William Penn.
For many years there had been a gentleman's agreement in Philadelphia that no building taller than this statue would EVER be erected. Then in 1987 One Liberty Place (945 feet - 288 metres) was built breaching this rule and the idea of "the Curse of Billy Penn" took hold as all the professional sports teams based in Philadelphia (baseball, ice hockey, basketball and American football) failed to win any championships. Then in 2007 the Comcast Building (974 feet - 297 metre) was built with a small statue of William Penn amid much ridicule placed on top, the following year the Philadelphia Phillies won Baseball's 2008 World Series - was the superstition of the curse true after all?
Time go and see, in the afternoon we had tickets to watch the Philadelphia Phillies play against the Milwaukee Brewers